On Tuesday, April 12, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome, Ertharin Cousin, and the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz joined representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as teachers and students from three international schools in Rome to celebrate the sustainable edible gardens the schools created for Earth Day 2011 with the help of consultants from the FAO and with the sponsorship of the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome.
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin and Ambassador Miguel Diaz were on hand at Marymount International School to meet the students and staff from the New School Rome, the American Overseas School of Rome, and Marymount International School who participated in the project.
In the colorful setting of the Marymount International School’s flourishing vegetable garden, Ambassador Cousin praised the excited students of the New School Rome, the American Overseas School of Rome, and Marymount International School for all they have achieved.
She also explained the Mission’s goals for the project.
“President and First Lady Obama set the example for these gardens,” the Ambassador told the students, “they grow one at the White House as a demonstration of their commitment to good nutrition, food sustainability, and health.”
“This administration is passionately committed to creating a greener, more environmentally friendly world,” said Ambassador Cousin, “and we at the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, and U.S. Embassy Rome hope that this project will help light that same passion in these students.”
The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, was enthusiastic about what the schools had achieved.
“It’s through small but significant actions like these that we can all make a difference on Earth Day,” said Ambassador Diaz.
“Earth Day doesn’t have to be just one day in April. We can live the spirit of Earth Day every day of the year– by taking a bike to work, using low consumption light bulbs, and yes, by planting gardens where we can grow our own food.”
The school gardens were created with the support of the FAO and the WFP and with the direct assistance of FAO consultants Masha Volodina and Luigi Castaldi. The actual physical work by students in the garden was accompanied by class- work on world-hunger relief, nutrition and agricultural development.
Food and Agriculture Organization Senior Nutrition Officer Ellen Muehlhoff spoke of the need to teach children around the world how to eat healthily, and if need be, produce their own food as well.
“With the right conditions and support, school gardens can make a really important contribution to educating children about food production and healthy eating,” Ms. Muehlhoff told the schools, “and the three gardens that we are celebrating in Rome today are an excellent demonstration of their important roles.”
World Food Program Consultant for School Feeding Operations Luca Molinas noted the impact of school gardens in the countries where WFP distributes food relief and the similarity they have with the Rome school gardens.
“We recognize really the importance of school gardens, particularly in the program where we work, which is in school feeding, where we can see that school gardens can have a very big impact in terms of building knowledge of nutrition and hunger solutions,” said Mr. Molinas.
“This looks like the school gardens in the field where we go do our food distribution and so for me it is really an emotion to see that here you do the same things that are done in less developed countries.”
After brief remarks from teachers and students from the three schools the two Ambassadors awarded prizes for the videos each school produced to showcase their gardens.
The event ended with a symbolic planting of seedlings by Ambassadors Cousin and Diaz.